Region of Concern: North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Written By Rohit Shankar Ram; Edited by Cameron Munoz and Jennifer Loy
Date: March 30, 2023
Militants from the Insurgent Group M23
Event: The insurgent group M23 has broken its agreement to withdraw from the Congolese province of North Kivu by March 30. The withdrawal agreement was initially signed on February 5 with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and other member states of the East African Community (EAC). While M23 has withdrawn from peripheral settlements, it continues to occupy key territories, including its regional stronghold in Bunagana. M23’s refusal to leave these settlements prompted the conflict between the insurgency and Congolese forces on the morning of the ceasefire. Congolese armed forces await the delayed deployment of Ugandan and South Sudanese forces to enforce the withdrawal and occupy liberated settlements. Despite being a member of the EAC, Uganda has been accused by the DRC, US, and UN of providing support to M23. The insurgent group’s expected withdrawal prompted displaced citizens to begin returning to their homes. Since M23’s resurgence in 2021, these civilians have been living in refugee camps with widespread concerns regarding disease and malnutrition.
Significance: The outbreak of hostilities on the day of M23's withdrawal presents an imminent threat to the local North Kivu government. The delay of EAC forces will likely incentivize M23 to retain control over key regional settlements, increasing the risk of inadvertent escalation. Rwanda’s alleged ties to M23 indicate a roughly even chance that its forces’ arrival in Kivu will either prompt M23 to withdraw or allow them to act with impunity. The return of displaced persons to North Kivu, while M23 threatens to resume hostilities, is very likely to result in mass civilian casualties. Prolonging the region’s conflict is also likely to harm civilians remaining in refugee camps unless concerns of disease and malnutrition are addressed.
Recommendations: The Congolese Ministry of the Interior and Security should advise displaced persons returning to North Kivu to refrain from doing so until M23’s withdrawal is confirmed. The local North Kivu government is urged to modify its refugee camps for long-term habitation. International humanitarian organizations and the African Union are encouraged to provide funding and supplies to address the poor living conditions of these camps. CTG recommends that EAC states place its contingents in the DRC further in advance of planned withdrawal dates in the future to deter noncompliance. The EAC is also urged to place contingents nearby to ensure that all national divisions, particularly Rwanda, comply with their peacekeeping duties.
 No Retreat By DR Congo Rebels On Deadline Day, Barron’s, March 2023, https://www.barrons.com/news/no-retreat-by-dr-congo-rebels-on-deadline-day-2b8fca94
 RDC: des combats entre armée et M23 confirment le nouvel échec d’un plan de retrait des rebelles, Radio France Internationale, March 2023, https://www.barrons.com/news/no-retreat-by-dr-congo-rebels-on-deadline-day-2b8fca94
 Nord-Kivu : retour timide des populations dans les villages dégarnis par les rebelles du M23, Radio Okapi, March 2023, https://www.radiookapi.net/2023/03/16/actualite/securite/nord-kivu-retour-timide-des-populations-dans-les-villages-degarnis-par